Cotton Yarn

Let’s talk yarn!

Let’s talk yarns! Here are my favorites and why! How about you?

My love of cotton

One of the advantages of developing your own style with one specific technique is really spending quality time with your materials – learning them inside and out. 

I’ve been weaving for about 12 years now and somewhere in the first 3-4 years, I did a placemat project that called for carpet warp (sometimes known as rug warp). It’s a tough cotton typically used for rugs. I loved it! 

This type of yarn comes in a million colors and won’t break the bank. And as an added bonus, I have a great resource close by in Kalamazoo, Michigan! Great Northern Weaving offers lots of options for me and in a pinch, I can get in the car to drive the hour & a half to see the yarn in person. It’s a great arrangement! 

Working with the same fiber for so long has given me an appreciation for what it can and can’t do. Carpet warp is a work horse! I think in the many, many projects I’ve done, I have had a yarn break once. It’s so durable and sturdy – perfect for handbags! 

On the flip side, I’ve discovered that because of its sturdiness, it’s not ideal for wearables. It just doesn’t drape well or soften up enough. It’s also not ideal for fringe – it doesn’t keep its shape. If I am weaving a table runner, I either hem the fabric or twist the ends. That keeps the finishing work looking clean. 

One of the other considerations is the amount of shrinkage. For a plain weave/twill weave structure, it can easily shrink 10% in both directions. What is crazy is when you do a little Rep weave (Ripsmata), it can go as high as 20-25% for the length! I don’t find this to be a pro or con, it’s just the nature of the beast. 

I tend to use carpet warp for all my warps. The wefts will vary, depending on the desired end result. But I’ve found it to be very versatile and crazy colorful, which works perfectly for me! 

What are some of your favorite fibers or materials? 

What's weavin'

My latest project du jour is a hybrid fabric – part traditional yarns, part recycled neckties. I started off the bolt with a custom portion. I really love the challenge of custom work! “Here are 12 of my husband’s ties – create something!” It’s like a puzzle! What common colors run through each tie or will pull it all together? 

In this case, I decided on a red/blue mix for the warp yarns (yarns running through the loom). They will provide a very cheerful platform for the unique variety of ties – hopefully without looking too patriotic! 

Then once I clear the number of inches needed for the custom bit, I’m off and running with my own portion! I’ve become a bit of a spontaneous weaver, which surprises no one more than me! I’ve gotten in the habit of carefully planning the beginning of a project and when it comes time to weave, letting the wind blow me wherever it pleases! And so far, it has served me really well! 

For my portion of the fabric, I’ve been working with black & gray ties, keeping the colors simple. Then little by little, I am tweaking the weft yarns (yarns in the shuttle) underneath them. I gotta say, it’s coming together well up to this point! There’s still a lot of inches to go and there’s no telling how it will play out! But, I’m happy to share my progress to date! 


(I’m having technical issues with my captions, but the top 3 are the custom portion & the bottom ones are my portion. The string is what I used to measure the correct number of inches and the shuttle image is a reminder of what not to do – that is, overstuff the shuttle!) 

What are you working on this week? 

Blue is the answer…

“I’m stuck in the middle of a project!” Haven’t we all said that at some point? Well, that’s been my mantra this week.  And truth be told, I’ve been stalled for a few weeks now but have been politely ignoring it. I don’t know about you, but I have a series of steps I go through whenever a project doesn’t follow my master plan! 

Step 1 – There’s usually pouting like a 6 year old when things originally go off the rails. 

Step 2 – While still pouting & being generally ornery, there is a period of reviewing where I went wrong in the project. This is the shoulda-woulda-coulda stage. 

Step 3 – Pretending it’s not there (which takes skill, since there’s a 36″ floor loom in the way every time I enter the basement)! 

Step 4 – Actually looking at it again with fresh eyes, thinking outside the box, asking “what if”?

Step 5 – Working on a solution – any solution! Giving it my best answer at the time to finish it up. 

Now in the past, it has taken me anywhere from 4 hours to 6 months to get from original pissiness to completed fabric. In this instance, I used the holidays as my excuse to let it all stew. 

But this is the week to wrap it up! Here are a few details so you get the picture. I have a necktie project on the loom where I have simple cotton for the warp yarns (running through the loom) and strips of recycled neckties as the weft (going the other direction). Kind of a rag rug technique, if you will. It takes awhile to prep the ties & I prepped a TON! The project is all oranges & yellows – beautiful! 

Until I get to the end of my plan & I still have probably an entire yard of warp left on the loom! And to make matters worse, I’ve ended with a peachy color! This may not sound like a big deal to you. And in the universe of real problems, it isn’t. But, I don’t have other peach-colored ties to continue with. AND, I kind of seriously dislike the color – just adding insult to injury! 

So here I am. Staring at a project I have to finish before I can do new, fun things. Deciding how to gracefully move from peach (ugh!) to yellow (because those are the color ties I have left). Then, an idea started to form – blue! Blue will be the bridge. 

Now, finally, I have a plan of attack. Weave blue ties intermittently with the peach I have left, gradually work in blue & yellow ties, then only yellow. Whew! It was a close one! It may not be a perfect solution, but it’s good enough to finish it! And most days, that’ll work! 

Thank you for commiserating with me! How do you get yourself out of these situations? I’m always up for suggestions! 

The birth of a project 

Here are the steps I go through to set up the loom before each event!

These were the winning colors!
Measured the yarns on the warping board.
The lovely warp – ready to go!
Sleyed the reed!
Threaded the heddles.
Tied the yarns on to the back of the loom. 
Started winding the yarns through the loom. 
Tied the yarns to the back.
Put a few spacers in place (toilet paper) and it’s ready to go!!!